Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 3, 2010
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
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Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


© Denis Beaumont



In what has become one of the most anticipated ‘entirely free’ summer events in all of Quebec, the 9th edition of the Longueuil International Percussion Festival, under mostly sunny skies and balmy temperatures, drew more than 125,000 visitors between between July 15-18. For four days, from noon until the bewitching hour, there were approximately 25 free concerts on the three main stages, one of which was dedicated to the discovery of new talent.

© Denis BeaumontThis year’s festival featured the music and dance (and scrumptious paella) of Spain, with a major emphasis on the art of flamenco.

The link between Spain and the New World (New France) goes back to the early sixteenth century with the discovery of the fishing windfall off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. It is a little known but significant fact that when Jacques Cartier arrived in eastern Canada, he was addressed in the Basque language of northern Spain. In fact surveys have uncovered Spanish coins and remains of Basque habitations and burial grounds which predate Cartier’s historic visit. So there are all sorts of good reasons to exhibit and celebrate Spanish culture.

The southern (and drop dead gorgeous) region of Andalusia is regarded as the birthplace of flamenco, with a respectful nod to the plaintive minor chord interval we associate with Arabic music. © Denis Beaumont

But it is especially the inimitable dance that defines flamenco, and with this in mind, music programmer and festival organizer France Cadieux invited several groups from Spain to expose a complicated art form that enjoys universal acclaim.

The opening night belonged to the Ballet Flamenco Arte de España. The group consisted of a highly skilled guitarist-singer, a percussionist and four gifted female dancers, each of whom, in the solo tradition, was called upon to improvise and dialogue with both voice and guitar. What immediately struck both the eye and ear was the incredible foot work that goes into flamenco; there is nothing quite like it in the long history of dance. When it comes to baring the © Robert LewisSpanish psyche and soul, flamenco -- in its brutal honesty and declamation -- is without equal. From one spellbinding impromptu after another, there was no mistaking the incredibly proud posture and carriage of the dancer, her heel and toe work ringing off the miked floor like an electric staple gun, symbolically stamping down, pulverizing someone apparently fallen out of the Senorita's good graces. With the dancer’s brow furled and eyes seeing red, it’s as if she were avenging every man who has betrayed her and every Spanish male who has betrayed his country’s hopes and aspirations.

The following evening, in another grouping featuring Roxanne Dion and guitarist-singer José Galvez, the celebrated lead dancer, José Maya, through his fierce, but totally enthralling footmanship, gave new insight and meaning to the word macho. As his fearsome feet ripped off the floor like a box of exploding fire crackers, we were made privy to the pride and conceit that operates through the Spanish male psyche -- in especially the pueblos and áreas rurales in the South. Which isn’t to say that flamenco doesn’t offer playful moments, such as the mix of music and circus provided by the highly entertaining group Albadulake.

© Denis BeaumontAnd lest we forget, as it concerns the incredible achievement of flamenco, we are always in the presence of breathtaking, technically unparalleled guitar wizardry, and the plaintive, heartbreaking singing that reveals yet another side of Spain. It has been said that of the many styles and genres of music that originate with the guitar, none compares to flamenco in bringing out the richness and dynamic potential of the instrument. And it’s all acoustically produced -- electrification (distinct from amplification) verboten. But. You’ll require four totally engaged, acrobatic fingers, a nimble thumb and a decade’s worth of intense study. Think of Manitas de Plata, Sabicus, Paco de Lucia, to mention three flamenco guitar immortals. At the end of the four days, I think we all felt wiser and considerably closer and sympathetic to the essence and diversity of Spain.

But it wasn't all flamenco. This extremely complex dance idiom was transformed into modern tango, samba and salsa etc. by the incredible Longueuil-based© Denis Beaumont of Bahia Studio dance couple. Bahia Studio dance troupe that left us speechless with performances worthy of Hollywood and prime time TV.

Beyond the music, which runs all day long, what stands out in Longueuil's summer festival is its completeness. Everything you want or expect of a festival is there. If it’s the visual arts that entice, there are art and sculpture classes, as well as an extensive gallery section with local artists contributing their latest works; and in the spirit of The Prado (Madrid’s famous museum), along the huge closed off pedestrian area, there was a series of 12-feet-tall murals representing Spain’s most illustrious painters: Goya, Picasso and Dali.

With a major emphasis on participation, the festival offers instruction in percussion and dance (samba, tango), a spectacular citizen’s carnival parade, as well as numerous scheduled activities for the kids, including rides and games. The site itself features the beautiful, tree laden Park St. Mark which hosts a vibrant international market place. Running along side the various activities are the many restaurants along St. Charles Street, most of which face the major music stages. Century old trees provide shade and a country feel, and of course there is the local French architecture. And last but not least is the friendliness of the locals, and the distinctly international feel the event generates: you not only hear French and English spoken, but Spanish, any number of African languages, and Creole, Chinese and Japanese. It’s a festival that simply brings out the best in people, and for that reason alone, it ranks with the best.

© Robert LewisAt the conclusion of this year’s superb offering of festivities and culture, I was left with one haunting image. On day three, just before the main show was to begin, the rains came down, and they were Biblical in proportion. While we (press, musicians, organizers) were enjoying the dry provided by a huge tent, in the eye of the downpour was the lonely and thoroughly irrigated figure of festival organizer-programmer France Cadieux, who, one at a time, was turning over the chairs in a vain attempt to keep them dry. Where actions speak louder than words, it was plainly evident to anyone with eyes that Longueuil's International Percussion Festival is in the loving, caring hands of a mother figure for whom this event is the perfect occasion to demonstrate that "yes we can" is more than just a slogan, which promises that next year’s 10th anniversary celebration will be one for the ages.

Hasta el próximo año.


If you have already decided that Old Longueuil is where you want to spend more time, don’t forget the FREE summer concerts that take place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in St. Mark Park.

2011 June 23, Fête Nationale (St-Jean-Baptiste Day) = Antoine Gratton & Damien Robitaille (FREE outdoor concert St. Charles Street, City Hall)

And don't forget the FREE 2011 outdoor July7th, 7.30 pm concert featuring tenor Marc Hervieux and Martine St-Clair and the celebrated Longueuil Symphony Orchestra in Boucherville (Parc de la Riviere-aux-Pins, 551 Chemin du Lac).


Report filed by Robert J. Lewis
Photo Credits: © Denis Beaumont (photos = 1,2,3,5,6)

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